*Economics of the Undead* (arrived in my pile)

by on July 10, 2014 at 1:56 pm in Books, Economics, Religion, Science, Uncategorized | Permalink

The editors are Dow James and Glen Whitman and the subtitle is Zombies, Vampires, and the Dismal Science.  Authors include Steven Horwitz, Sarah Skwire, Ilya Somin, and also Hollis Robbins, “Killing Time, Dracula and Social Coordination”, among others.

Enrique July 10, 2014 at 2:15 pm

Don’t forget my chapter too ( “Buy or Bite?” ) — http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=2332596

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Nick_L July 10, 2014 at 2:38 pm

Reminds me of an an amusing comedy skit many years ago (70′s?), that had the local people come to an agreement with the ‘Count’ in the castle, and from then on the blood was delivered to the castle by the milkman. Well, milkmen deliver early in the morning – just around sunrise – which led to a subtle change in the power structure The vampire being very keen to get his blood before he turns to ashes in the doorway and the milkman being keen to extract maximum value. Some great lines, and does anyone else remember who wrote/performed that one?

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Kurt Mitman July 10, 2014 at 2:59 pm

This old JPE piece would fit right in:

Macroeconomic Policy and the Optimal Destruction of Vampires
Dennis J. Snower
Journal of Political Economy, Vol. 90, No. 3 (Jun., 1982), pp. 647-655
Published by: The University of Chicago Press
Article Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1831376

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Ken Arromdee July 10, 2014 at 3:34 pm

Enrique: I don’t buy that argument (no pun intended).

The basic problem is that if the people who have something are not willing to sell it at any price that you are able to pay, there won’t be a market and the only way you can get it is by violence.

It is far from certain that enough people would be willing to sell blood at any reasonable price that the vampires can all get fed. And not selling your blood isn’t irrational–it just depends on how much you value your blood compared to how much vampires are willing to pay.

There are also vampire mythos where vampires are psychologically different from humans and want things that humans would be even less willing to sell than blood, such as vampires who enjoy torture (not many people selling the right to be tortured) or vampires who want to make artificial blood and then genocide humanity (humanity probably won’t sell you the right to genocide itself).

This in fact has a parallel with prostitution and actual organ selling. Bodily autonomy is something that most people value so highly that the price buyers are willing to pay to give it up is much less than the price sellers would be willing to sell it for. As a result, the majority of people who would sell such things would be desperate people who have to sell at a loss.

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Michael B Sullivan July 10, 2014 at 4:26 pm

> Bodily autonomy is something that most people value so highly that the price buyers are willing to pay to give it up is
> much less than the price sellers would be willing to sell it for. As a result, the majority of people who would sell such
> things would be desperate people who have to sell at a loss.

Asserts facts not in evidence. But, moreso, I think that there’s a weird pathology that says, “I have a kidney. You will literally die if I do not sell you my kidney. I am the desperate party here who is being taken advantage of.”

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Glen July 10, 2014 at 10:03 pm

Ken, it seems like your first and last paragraphs are saying entirely different things. On the one hand, people will refuse even very high prices in order to maintain their bodily integrity. On the other hand, people will accept prices so low they will be “sell[ing] at a loss.” So which is it? Are you imagining a demand curve with a discontinuity? It seems to me that if vampire demand is very high relative to human demand, as described in your first paragraph, then the desperate people described in your final paragraph will be able to command a high price for their sacrifices.

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Ken Arromdee July 11, 2014 at 12:56 pm

For certain classes of goods, predominantly ones for which selling them harms bodily integrity, people will refuse even high prices for them if not desperate, but will have to sell them at much less than this value if they are desperate. These are two different scenarios–one desperate and one not.

> It seems to me that if vampire demand is very high relative to human demand, as described in your first paragraph, then the desperate people described in your final paragraph will be able to command a high price for their sacrifices.

While the first paragraph does imply that vampire demand is high relative to human demand, that’s not all it implies. It also implies that human demand is so high that the price that humans ask exceeds the size of the vampires’ pocketbooks. If so, no human, desperate or non-desperate, will be able to command that price because no vampire can afford it. As a result, no non-desperate human will ever sell. Desperate humans will have to sell anyway to stay alive, and will get a price that is much less than their asking price. Although you are correct that high vampire demand will push up the price, it won’t push it up so high that the desperate people can “command a high price” because doing so requires pushing the price up past the size of the vampire’s pocketbook.

Michael: while the person who wants the kidney is also desperate, the person with the kidney can’t take advantage of him (in the sense of using his desperation to get his asking price) because the person who wants the kidney has a limited size pocketbook, which is smaller than the asking price. In the opposite situation where the person selling the kidney is desperate, the kidney and the money take opposite roles, and his “available kidney pocketbook” holds one kidney, which is not smaller than what the other person is asking for.

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TuringTest July 11, 2014 at 1:38 pm

ken, Why wouldn’t the coase theorem apply to the kidney hypo?

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Turkey Vulture July 11, 2014 at 9:44 pm

If you don’t let them sell an organ, won’t the desperate people stay desperate? If they were already willing to “sell at a loss,” as you posit, won’t they just go to their next desperate choice, one which they must have disfavored even more than selling an organ, but an even-more-desperate choice which your prohibition forces on them?

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